Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Archive for June 2008

Black Holes and Greener Pastures: making photographic art in Australia

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I’m still navigating my knowledge of contemporary Australian photography, ironic given that I’m an Australian myself, but it seems to me that the very best artists are those that are quietly pursuing their art without much fanfare (and often without much opportunity to show their work, which is a sorry state of affairs really). The NGV said it well when they suggested that, “photography has come to dominate the contemporary art scene but despite the photo rich days we live in, large-scale surveys of Australian photography are relatively rare.”

Two Australian photographers chipping away at their art are Jane Burton and Marion Drew. Whilst they do exhibit inside Australia (and I believe Drew has shown in NY) I would really like to see more Australian photography like this pushed to a broader and more international audience. We are still trumpeting the likes of Bill Henson, Trent Parke and Max Dupain (a lot of men)!! I am not dissing their talent or their work at all, but isn’t it time for some new blood on the tracks? Why are Australian curators and selection panels so afraid of no-names? The NGA is soon to open a new photography exhibition for the inaugural Vivid Photography Festival. Titled Picture Paradise, it is yet another show of old brown photos. When will their senior curator of Photography begin to realise that brilliant contemporary Australian work is out there and needs to be nurtured. History has its place but the repetitive showing of the same work and the same core group of artists is beginning to take its toll! And I don’t think it does much for Australian contemporary photography’s international reputation either.

Jane Burton, Untitled, 2008

Jane Burton, Untitled, 2008

Jane Burton, Untitled, 2008 (All images courtesy of Johnston Gallery)

Vivid could have been an opportunity for a major institution in Australia to demonstrate a unique and supportive stance had it chosen to exhibit an all contemporary show. But the brown photos prevail it seems. The ACP in Sydney however, is about to set an example with its forthcoming show Hijacked, a dual exhibition of contemporary American and Australian photographers curated by Mark McPherson. If you’re in Sydney do go along, it opens today.

from the exhibition Hijacked

And yes, I bleet a bit about this issue but I do think its one that needs to be dealt with by somebodies (anybodies) sooner than later otherwise we might lose some brilliant working artists – as opposed to dead ones – to greener pastures overseas or worse to the obscurities of anonymity.

Marion Drew (from the Australian Still-life series)

Marion Drew (from the Australian Still-life series)

Marion Drew (from the Australian Still-life series). Courtesy of Robin Gibson Gallery

Written by Lee Grant

June 13, 2008 at 10:25 am

Every dog has its day…. and sometimes even, night.

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Well, no surprise about the outcome of Henson’s work and I was glad to hear that the law prevailed appropriately (for a change, cos it has been known to be ridiculous in recent times). I know one thing for sure, Henson is now a household name in Australia and despite what emotions he may conjure up in people, the whole incident will make punters curious enough to want to either see the work or stay the hell away. I’ll certainly try to get up to Sydney to see the show which I understand is by appointment only now. It all adds a deliciously underground edge to it! Something I’m sure Hetty Johnston didn’t want. Perhaps she’ll choose more relevant cases to sling mud at in future.

Anyway, the suburbs have been keeping me plenty occupied. Whoever believes they are places of inane existence are sorely mistaken. And it seems that I’m not the only one who thinks they are wonderfully brilliant in their dullness. Murdoch University (yes, actually named after its principal benefactor, Rupert) has been researching how suburbia “could actually be hotbeds of creative activity”.

Well duh. But at least the academics are beginning to figure it out which might help to legitimise one’s interest in the seemingly boring (I can assure you that this makes a big difference when applying for funding!). I am however acutely aware of the grand tradition in which I work. Bill Owens, I bow down to you.

And speaking of academic here is a flyer for an up-coming conference being held at the ANU in early July:

Should be interesting, Geoffrey Batchen will be the keynote speaker and it coincides with the openings of two shows that I have work in (including the one that I’m curating – very interesting experience to say the least!). Naturally I’ll be crashing the event. The rest of you can register here. ;)

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